We’re well into the fantasy hockey season, and there continue to be many surprises in players just sitting on the free agent market for you to take advantage of in your league. We have another busy week on the NHL schedule as 12 teams play four games, while only four play two games.
With 12 teams playing the most games, it would be very hard not to find a player that will contribute to your team this week if you are in need of help. The teams that play four games this week are as follows: Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets.
With only two games on tap for this week, you may want to avoid these teams, if you are looking for players in the short run. The teams are the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, and Los Angeles Kings.
(Rostered as of Nov. 22, ESPN Fantasy Hockey)
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils (7.4% rostered)
Jesper Bratt, like the other three players who show up again on the top waiver-wire pickups for the week, has continued to perform well enough to be rostered a bit more than they were last week. Not slowing down since he turned his season around, he has added three more points in his past three games last week, growing his point total to 12 in the last 11 games. Not many people own this player in leagues, so he is more than likely available for you to take advantage of while he’s putting up more points than games played.
Robert Thomas, St. Louis Blues (11.2%)
For how Robert Thomas has performed this season, it’s hard to believe not more people have added him to their fantasy teams. He has two goals and 16 points in 17 games and is playing over 19 minutes a night, great as a forward in leagues that include average time on ice (ATOI) as a category.
In his past five games, he has a goal and five assists. The Blues are a very deep team up front, and Thomas has gotten lucky by seeing his linemates finish and award him with all the assists he’s got.
Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights (27.2%)
With a Vegas Golden Knights team that is getting healthier, that means Reilly Smith has more reinforcements to score goals and build his stats up more. In the absence of a lot of the talent, Smith has been one of the constants who has played 18 games and recorded 13 points in the process. He has five goals and two assists in his past six games even despite all the inexperience surrounding him.
Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators (25.4%)
Nashville’s offence has really clicked this season, and it is shocking because they are not known to score, they are known to be a defensive team. Mikael Granlund is one of the players leading the charge on offence with 18 points in 17 games. He has really been a setup man this season, but he also plays well over 20 minutes a night and on the power play. He is a valuable asset, but then again, anyone who can put up over a point per game is valuable.
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (21%)
Trevor Zegras is finally doing what everyone expected of him at the start of the season, scoring goals and putting up points. His tough start seems to be behind him, as he has now recorded four goals and an assist in the past three games.
He will have some work to do to catch up in the Calder Trophy race, but you can take advantage of his rise with him on your fantasy team. The Ducks are still a hot team, so there should be no negative impact team-wise by adding this player to your fantasy team.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes (33.4%)
Shayne Gostisbehere is the highest owned player on this list this week, but with what he’s been doing offensively on the Coyotes who have really struggled, it is impressive. As of late, the team has won some games, and “Ghost” seems like he is at the centre of it assisting on everything.
In 19 games this season, he has recorded two goals and 12 assists. But what may be even more impressive is that his plus/minus is at zero even though he produces on the power play as well. Lately, he has played a ton of minutes, logging almost 25 minutes a night.
Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (26.8%)
Evan Bouchard will really be given the opportunity to step up and play even more meaningful minutes for a bit as Darnell Nurse is out two to three weeks. He still may not earn the power-play time that he will in the future, but he will be on the ice for every other situation and playing against the opponent’s top lines.
Bouchard has surprised this year with his early contributions offensively, putting up 10 points in 17 games. In the team’s first game without Nurse, Bouchard recorded two assists in a winning effort.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (29.5%)
Jonathan Quick‘s numbers have been great and have helped the Kings pull themselves out of the hole they dug early on. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in six consecutive games and if his team could give him a little more scoring help, he’d be winning a lot more games.
Through 10 games, Quick has a .939 save percentage (SV%), 1.88 goals-against average (GAA), and a shutout. The way he’s playing, he should project to start more games than Calvin Petersen moving forward if the Kings want to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (3.2%)
The recent news of Mike Smith landing on the long-term injured reserve isn’t good for the team but is good news for Stuart Skinner, who is taking full advantage of the opportunity he’s getting in the NHL to prove why he should be there. After losing his first two starts this year on the road after the team decided Mikko Koskinen needed a little break from carrying the load in Smith’s absence, Skinner has come back with two great performances at home against the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.
He stopped 46 shots vs the Jets, including 10 while shorthanded and both in the shootout while improving to 2-2-0 on the season with a .939 SV% and a 2.08 GAA. With Koskinen struggling lately, the Oilers’ best shot at winning would be by riding the hot hand in goal and to really see what they have in Skinner. So, with three games on the schedule for Edmonton this week, I think he starts two of them and more than Koskinen moving forward until they either acquire a goalie or Smith returns.
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (15.9%)
The Dallas Stars have turned it around as of late, and no coincidence it coincides with the callup of Jake Oettinger to their team. He has two wins in two games since being recalled after Braden Holtby was listed as day-to-day. The way Oettinger is performing in his short time and with the lackluster play of Anton Khudobin, Oettinger could continue to get starts even when Holtby returns (“Stars notebook: Jake Oettinger continues to impress in net, giving Dallas more to think about”, Dallas Morning News, 11/21/21). The Stars will have to figure out their goalie situation but why not play the man who will give your team the best shot at winning. His .955 SV% and 1.43 GAA speak for itself, even though it is early.
There are a number of players that have great chances to step up due to injuries on their teams. The NHL is an ever-changing environment and with a shot, a player can prove valuable enough to continue to play. Adding players at the right time in fantasy is what separates the good fantasy hockey managers from the average and keeps you at the top.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.